Univers Zero

Heresie

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Univers Zero's debut recording, 1313, may be somber, but it's a walk in the park compared to their second release, which features more or less the same lineup as the first (oboe, bassoon, viola, violin, bass, guitar, keyboards, drums), except for an additional and prominent contribution of cathedral organ from guitarist/keyboardist Roger Trigaux. Studio overdubbing sometimes gives the five-man group the sound of a much larger chamber ensemble. Extremely dissonant and emotionally bleak, Heresie is sometimes quite close to the industrial and gothic genres -- which didn't really even exist for another five years or more. A Magma influence is readily discernible on the long opening track "La Faulx," which includes the guttural chanting favored by Magma's Christian Vander. (In the early '70s, Univers Zero drummer Daniel Denis was employed as a second drummer in Vander's group.) "Jack the Ripper," the second long piece, maintains the oppressive atmosphere, and after a long, brooding introduction, introduces the nervous, jabbing ostinato patterns which were to become a Univers Zero trademark. This music on this CD might have little to do with rock, and might also be a massive downer, but the quality of the writing and playing is extremely high. Michel Berckmans' solo work on oboe and bassoon work is magnificent, and Patrick Hanappier's string playing (violin and viola) also demonstrates the precision of a trained classical musician, along with demonic avant-garde scraping and howling on "Jack the Ripper." Best of all, Univers Zero never cheapens the effect of the music with any of the stock cartoon licks which are associated with the gothic genre today. Group members sound deadly serious about what they're doing, which might call their sanity into question, but which makes for an incredibly powerful listening experience. In fact, Heresie is a stunning one-of-a-kind item that has never been duplicated by anyone -- including Univers Zero. [The Cuneiform label's 2010 remastered edition includes the nearly 12-minute previously unreleased bonus track "Chaos Hermétique."]

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